Deep in the Delta Blues

Posted on September 21, 2011


It all started down on Will Dockery’s plantation when Charlie Patton was having women troubles and decided to take arms against the blues by learning the blues.  Charlie had a lot of woman-trouble after that, because he really did learn the blues.  But nobody really thinks woman-trouble is always a bad thing, and it’s the kind of thing you can expect when you become one of them low-down blues men.


Charlie Patton – Moon Going Down

After Charlie learned the blues and roped in some Delta-land fame, a few folk started to play songs Charlie’s way.  One of these was Son House.

Son House – Death Letter Blues

Another of Charlie Patton’s friends was Tommy Johnson.  Some people who hear Tommy Johnson might hear his influence on the singing of another Delta legend, Howlin’ Wolf.

Tommy Johnson – Cool Drink of Water Blues

Skip James is not really a disciple of Charlie Patton.  He’s far too original for that.  His is another stream of the Delta Blues, which rejoins Patton’s in the singing of Robert Johnson.

Skip James – Devil Got My Woman

Robert Johnson is the iconic bluesman, so it’s appropriate that he should also be a Delta bluesman.  He represents a summary of the country blues art at the moment just before the blues went electric.

Robert Johnson – Hellhound on My Trail

Robert Johnson famously references Willie Brown in his songs, which formed the basis of the movie “Crossroads”.  Of course the fellow playing Willie Brown in the film has switched from guitar to harmonica (so that Sonny Terry can ghost-harp for him, I guess,) and his biography was really not a mystery.  Here’s the real Willie Brown.

Willie Brown – Future Blues

Another version of the Delta blues from the dynamic Bukka White.

Bukka White – Aberdeen Mississippi Blues

A Delta blues classic from an artist so good a rock band named themselves after him, Floyd Jones.

Floyd Jones – Dark Road

Proving that the classic acoustic Delta blues persisted late into the twentieth century in rural Mississippi, a cut from Joe Callicott.

Joe Callicott – Lonesome Katy Blues

After awhile, the Delta blues moved to the city.  One of those who took it there was Elmore James.

Elmore James – It Hurts Me Too

In northern Mississippi and Tennessee another form of Delta blues was developed, and a master discovered.  Often called “Mississippi” Fred McDowell, Fred was in fact from Tennessee.

Fred McDowell – Goin’ Down to the River

Famously under the influence of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters is the fellow who actually brought the Delta blues to town and electrified it creating a new genre, the Chicago blues.  Here he is at Newport with his version of a Delta blues standard.

Muddy Waters – Rollin’ Stone

In the early ’50s, the Howlin’ Wolf followed Muddy Waters to Chicago and became one of the two kings of the Chicago blues.

Howlin’ Wolf – Dust My Broom

John Lee Hooker, rooted in the Delta, beginning his career in Detroit, recording prolifically under a dozen different names, ending as a blues superstar.

 John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom

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